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HISTORY OF THE U.S.S. SALT LAKE CITY
December 11, 1929 - September 27, 1945
US NAVY DEPT. SHIP's SECTION
Office of Public Information

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After forty-five months of warfare that included 31 engagements against Japanese sea, air and land forces, the heavy cruiser U.S.S. SALT LAKE CITY is now at her goal, the mainland of Japan, covering landings of the American occupational troops on northern Honshu.

The SALT LAKE CITY has credit for sinking or helping to sink 15 enemy vessels: two Heavy Cruisers, a Light Cruiser, a Destroyer, 10 Auxiliaries and a Cargo ship. She damaged at least 10 other Japanese vessels, all Combatant craft, and destroyed or helped destroy 12 planes through 11 "start" operations.

She fought in two surface actions

In one, off Tropic Cape Esperance, she won the nickname "The One Ship Fleet" in helping rescue the stricken cruiser BOISE. In the other off the Arctic Komandorski Islands, she helped fight to a standstill a Japanese force twice the size of her own.  [1]

In those battles and in bombardments of 12 Japanese land bases, the SALT LAKE CITY fired more than 6,697,912 pounds of shells (41,833 Rounds); 21,473 rounds (5,582,980 Pounds) from her 10 eight inch guns and 20,360 rounds (1,114,931 pounds) from her eight 5 inch guns in addition to uncounted 40 and 20MM projectiles. Her war cruises total, as of midnight September 25, 1945, 245,748 miles; hours spent underway total 13,618.3; fuel consumed, 29,439,431 gallons. Food consumed by the crew is conservatively estimated at 5,500,000 pounds since December 7, 1941

Throughout the '30's', the SALT LAKE CITY won numerous honors. In 1930 it attained the highest merit in aircraft gunnery in the heavy cruiser aviation unit class; the same year it won the general excellence trophy in Athletics. At another time it scored the highest torpedo records ever made by an American Cruiser. From the crew came the all-Navy wrestling champion; scouting force boxing champion; and scouting force wrestling champion. The race boat crew of the SALT LAKE CITY had a particularly outstanding record, winning numerous events.  [2]

Prior to declaration of war against Japan, ports visited included New York, New York; Port Arthur, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Chile; and in August of 1941, Brisbane, Australia.

December 7, 1941, found the SALT LAKE CITY with a task group heading toward Hawaii after delivering 12 Marine Corps Fighter Planes to Wake Island. When word of the Pearl Harbor attack was received, the group launched planes, approximately 200 miles west of Pearl Harbor to cut down some of the straggling sneak attackers.

The SALT LAKE CITY'S Commanding Officer at that time was ball-red-02 Deceased Captain Ellis M. Zacharias, USN, a former attaché at the Embassy of Tokyo, who four years later was to act as the nation's radio spokesman during the diplomatic skirmishing that preceded the Japanese surrender.

December 8, 1941, the task group fueled in the smoldering Pearl Harbor, then put to sea again to patrol the area near Oahu against a repetition of the Japanese attack.

Its next patrol duty from Dec. 19th to 31st, 1941, was intended originally to cover a relief of beleaguered Wake, but, with the fall of that spot, it was switched to cover a reinforcement of Midway; and then of far off Samoa, a possible objective of a Japanese spearhead.

Then the Americans made their first offensive strike. On February 1, 1942, a Task Force commanded by Rear Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., struck at Wotje, a major Nipponese base in the Mandated Marshall Islands. The SALT LAKE CITY opened fire a few seconds before her fellow ships and it is believed that her missiles were the first American Naval Shells to fall on Japanese land.

Military installations on Wotje were ruined and four or five 4,000--5,000 ton vessels and three or four smaller cargo ships were sunk. Japanese planes attacked the Americans upon retirement. One twin-engine bomber was shot down and another damaged by the SALT LAKE CITY. Two Japanese planes made bombing runs on the ship but skillful maneuvering caused their bombs to miss by 100 yards.

On March 4, 1942, planes from the task Group force struck Marcus. There was no surface bombardment.

On April 8, 1942, the SALT LAKE CITY set out as an escort in one of the boldest strokes of the war, the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo.  [3]

Just before dawn 10 days later, when the force was within 500 miles of Japan, alert SALT LAKE CITY lookouts sighted, at a great distance, a Japanese patrol craft. The U.S.S. NASHVILLE immediately informed, took the vessel under fire and sank it.

Fearful that the enemy ship had had time to radio a warning to the Japanese Capital, the Americans launched their B-25 bombers from the U.S.S. HORNET ahead of schedule. No warning had been received by the Japanese. The raid was a surprise. The Task Force retired without molestation.

The tide of war then took the SALT LAKE CITY to the south, where Australia was in peril. From April 18, to July 26, 1942, she operated in the Coral Sea, Australia and New Zealand Areas, part of the time as a unit in a joint allied force under the command of a British Admiral. During this period, on May 27, 1942, ball-red-02 Deceased Captain Ernest G. Small, USN, relieved Captain Zacharias as a Commander of the cruiser.

On August 7-9, 1942, the SALT LAKE CITY participated in the first American Land Counter offensive, helping cover the landings of Guadalcanal and Tulagi.

She then went on patrol. It was perilous; a task in a disputed ocean. On September 15, 1942, the carrier WASP , 1,000 yards from the SALT LAKE CITY, was torpedoed and sunk by Japanese submarines. The SALT LAKE CITY helped rescue survivors.

The Battle for Guadalcanal developed into a grim struggle of men, planes and ships. The task of the American surface force was to thwart the Japanese "Tokyo Express" which was claiming the sea lanes for its own. The SALT LAKE CITY was assigned to a task force which included the U.S.S. SAN FRANCISCO, BOISE & HELENA

On the night of October 11, 1942, off Cape Esperance, between Guadalcanal and Savo Islands, the Americans intercepted a Japanese force consisting of two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, three destroyers, a troop transport and three unidentified ships.

The high point of action revolved around the BOISE which was ahead in column to the SALT LAKE CITY. Crippled by the intense fire of a Japanese heavy cruiser, the BOISE fell out of station burning fiercely forward.

The SALT LAKE CITY interposed herself between the flaming American and her assailant and opened fire at the extremely short range of 5,000 yards. The Japanese fled, buy not fast enough. Four salvos later it was sunk.

In all, the SALT LAKE CITY made at least 150, 8 inch shell hits on enemy vessels at ranges from 2,000 to 9,500 yards. A heavy cruiser, a destroyer and an auxiliary were seen to sink under her accurate gunfire and it is believed other ships were damaged.

The SALT LAKE CITY sustained three major caliber hits, five men were killed [4] and 21 wounded. From 1 November, 1942 to 11 March, 1943, she was at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard undergoing complete Battle repairs and routine overhaul which was the first time any ship had received such servicing in that yard. While in the port, on 2 January, 1943, ball-red-02 Deceased Captain Bertram J. Rodgers, USN, relieved Captain Small as Commanding Officer.

The ship was then assigned to a task force operating west of Attu to prevent supplies and reinforcements from reaching the Japanese garrisons on Attu and Kiska.

On March 26, 1943, the force intercepted a group of Japanese men of war, convoying two large merchantmen.

The Japanese force was more than twice as powerful as the American. It consisted of two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and six destroyers, in addition to a light cruiser and two destroyers which retired with the merchant vessels. The American Force consisted of the heavy cruiser SALT LAKE CITY, the old light cruiser RICHMOND and the Destroyers, MONAHAN, DALE, BAILEY & COUGHLIN

There ensued the longest surface engagement of the war. On the American's part it was a retired action fought at extreme ranges of 18,000 and 24,000 yards.

As the heaviest ship in the American force, the SALT LAKE CITY assumed the brunt of the battle in a life and death duel with two Japanese heavies. Five shells pierced her sides. Water seeped into her fuel oil. Her engines stopped and she lay dead in the water, exposed to the Japanese fire.

Men shook hands and prepared to die, but her gunfire never faltered. This and a daring torpedo attack by the destroyers saved her. Her engines were started again on uncontaminated oil and she continued her retirement. After three and a half hours, the Japanese broke off the action and steamed away to the southwest.

They had suffered a grave damage. Hits from the SALT LAKE CITY were observed on all three cruisers and a destroyer. Attu was not reinforced.

The SALT LAKE CITY had lost two men killed  [5] and [6] 13 [or 15]wounded. She was repaired at the Mare Island Navy Yard and returned to the Aleutians May 14, 1943.

For the next 123 days, the Cruiser operated as a unit in seven different task groups. She spent practically no time at her home base, Kuluk Bay, at Adak Island. She covered the ATTU occupation, bombarded Kiska, convoyed and patrolled. On September 3, 1943, after Kiska had been bombarded, ball-red-02 Deceased Captain LeRoy W. Busbey, Jr., USN relieved Captain Rodgers of the command.

The SALT LAKE CITY left Adak September 23 1943, and reached Pearl Harbor on the 28th, 1943, By October 1, 1943, she was en-route to San Francisco as a special transport to carry back to Hawaii, by the 14th, 75 officers and 1000 enlisted passengers.

Thereafter, until November 8, 1943, her crew held vigorous gunnery and other training exercise at Honolulu, with special emphasis on shore bombardment and AA Gunnery.

The SALT LAKE CITY then became a unit of a task group under Rear Admiral Alfred E. Montgomery participating in the Gilbert Islands operation, November 13 to December 8, 1943. She bombarded Betio Island during the assault and capture of Tarawa and took her place with the covering force.

In bombarding Betio Island, Tarawa, the SALT LAKE CITY expended 711 rounds of 8" shells and 79 rounds of 5"/25 AA shells. The unit was fired upon by shore batteries for one hour and fifty-four minutes, but was not hit. The ship's gunfire results were excellent.

After Tarawa, she took part in covering the occupation of Abemama and on the evening of November 18th shot down one Japanese Betty plane. Two days later her AA fire brought down three more and assisted in knocking out another.

The period from December 9, 1943 to January 25, 1944, saw the highly regarded "Swayback Maru" continue in the Central Pacific area with Rear Admiral Small's Task Group, with the mission of denying the Gilbert-Ellice Islands area to enemy surface forces. The base was at Funa Futi.

Next came the Marshall Islands operation, which started November 26, 1943. Operating with a neutralization force of a task group the cruiser conducted eight bombardments of Wotje and two bombardments of Taro, Maloelap Atoll, in connection with the capture and occupation of Kwajalein, Majuro and Eniwetok and the attack on Jaluit.

The first bombardment of Wotje, on January 29, 1944 brought weak and inaccurate enemy counter-battery fire; the SALT LAKE CITY hit the island fortifications with 350 rounds of 8 inch shells attaining good results.

Taroa next felt the wrath of the "One Ship Fleet's" guns to the sting of 150 rounds of 8 inch and there was no enemy resistance. On the 31st Taroa felt the blows of 185 rounds of 8 inch and 191 rounds of 5"/25; the latter on Emma Island. Results, once again, were very good.

Wotje was hit by the SALT LAKE CITY'S guns on the 2nd, 9th, 11th, 14th, 15th, and 17th of February, 1944 as a total of 713 rounds of 8 inch shells, 1 - 100 pound GP Bomb and 65 rounds of 5"/25 were expended upon it.

Basing on Kwajalein and Majuro as a unit of a Task Group (Rear Admiral Small) covering the support force, the SALT LAKE CITY participated in the raids on Palau, Yap, Ulithi and Woleai on March 30 and April 1. The Japanese bases were struck by American Air Power without loss to surface vessels, and on April 6 the Force anchored in Majuro. By April 25, 1944, the SALT LAKE CITY was on its way to Pearl Harbor, without escort, with the Cruiser Division arriving on the 30th.

The next day she headed for Mare Island Navy Yard. From May 7 until June 22, 1944, she was at the Yard and from that time to July 1, 1944, operated in the San Francisco Bay area for Shakedown trials and Gunnery Training.

Adak, the next destination, was reached July 8, 1944, when the SALT LAKE CITY joined a Task Force under Rear Admiral Small. On August 1, 1944, the force sorted from Massacre Bay to proceed to Paramushiro for bombardment. The operation was canceled on the 3rd due to weather and the Force returned to Attu. Four days later the SALT LAKE CITY got underway from Adak with her Cruiser Division and returned to Pearl Harbor, arriving August 13, 1944. The next 16 days were spent in that area, replenishing and undergoing extensive gunnery training.

On August 29, 1944, the "Swayback Maru" sorted with a task group that included the U.S.S. CHESTER (Rear Admiral A. E. Smith), U.S.S. PENSACOLA and U.S.S. MONTEREY to attack Wake Island. On September 3, the SALT LAKE CITY expended 311 rounds of 8 inch and 156 rounds of 5"/25 upon the Island. Counter-battery fire by the enemy was ineffective. The force proceeded to Eniwetok, arriving on September 6, 1944.

Until September 24, 1944, the SALT LAKE CITY remained in Eniwetok. She then went to Saipan and began patrolling and exercises, as a part of a Task Group under command of Rear Admiral Smith

On October 6th, 1944, the group proceeded to Marcus Island to create a diversion in connection with an American Carrier raid on Formosa. Engaging in deceptive activities, the group bombarded Marcus on October 9, 1944. There the SALT LAKE CITY expended 85 rounds of 8" HC shells. Enemy counter-battery fire was both heavy and accurate, though it scored no hits. Anchoring at Saipan on the 11th the ship remained there until the 13th.

October 13 to 29, 1944, marked the second Battle of the Philippine Sea. Having sorted from Saipan with a task group under Rear Admiral Smith, as the Northern Flanking Force of the Third Fleet, the Group was directed, on October 15, to join the late Vice-Admiral John S. McCain's Task Group and the following day did so. 

Thereafter, throughout the second battle of the Philippine Sea, it worked with this Carrier Task Group. Operations carried the SALT LAKE CITY to within 100 miles of Luzon; numerous strikes were made by the carrier planes of the group on Japanese bases in the Philippines against Japanese surface craft.

The SALT LAKE CITY'S effective participation in the battle occurred October 24-26, 1944. On the second day, the 25th, ball-red-02 Deceased Lt. (jg) John T. S. Och, USNR, was lost overboard in heavy seas. Four days later the SALT LAKE CITY anchored in Ulithi, for replenishment. ball-red-02 Deceased Captain E. A. Mitchell, USN, relieved ball-red-02 Deceased Captain Leroy W. Busbey of the Command.

From November 8, 1944 to January 11, 1945, the SALT LAKE CITY'S Cruiser Division (Rear Admiral Smith) operated offensively against the Volcano Islands to protect B-29 fields on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. The ship based at Saipan and Ulithi.

Iwo Jima was bombarded by the SALT LAKE CITY on November 12th, 1944, with 471 rounds of 8 inch and 254 rounds of 5"/25; on December 8, 1944, it was again hit with 489 rounds of 8 inch and 355 rounds of 5"/25. On Christmas Eve, Iwo Jima was struck by 439 more rounds of 8 inch and 699 rounds of 5"/25. On the 27th 460 more rounds of 8 inch and 645 rounds of 5"/25 were directed upon the Japanese stronghold.

Then on the "Triple Play" day, on January 5, 1945, Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima and Haha Jima were hit successively to the extent of 801 rounds of 8 inch HC and 675 rounds of 5"/25. During this action, the ship was credited with downing a Japanese Betty Plane.

January 8, 1945, the ships returned to Ulithi to prepare for other operations.

In support of the landing operations at Lingayen Gulf in Luzon, while the Third Fleet was in the South China Sea, the Task Group (Rear Admiral Smith) operated as a northern patrol force, covering the flank of the forces operating on Luzon, prepared to intercept possible Japanese forces approaching from the Empire. The mission was completed on January 17, 1945 and the force returned to Ulithi.

A week later on the 24th, 1945, Iwo Jima was again bombarded. The SALT LAKE CITY'S guns hurled 432 8 inch, 35 5"/25 and 100 40 mm shells. It also assisted in shooting down one Japanese plane.

Back at Ulithi the ship spent from January 26 to February 10, 1945, conducting gunnery drills and other training for the final phase of blasting Iwo Jima's might resistance. With the Task Force and a carrier Force she went forward for the long, hard, final round.

Delivering day and night bombardments the "Swayback" remained at the objective from February 16 to March 13, 1945. Her call fire and general fires support missions were highly successful.

During this action at Iwo Jima, the SALT LAKE CITY expended 3,322 rounds of 8 inch, 3,969 rounds of 5"/25 and 356 rounds of star shells, for a tremendous total of 6,647 rounds.

The ship lost a scout observation plane and two officers to enemy gunfire. Otherwise no casualties were suffered. Numerous "near misses" from Iwo's now silenced shore batteries were experienced.

The SALT LAKE CITY'S amount of fire delivered was particularly outstanding and its marksmanship highly effective. The numerous tributes to this effect were soon to be indelibly repeated at the assault and occupation of Okinaw Hima, Ryukyus Japan, during March, April and May, 1945.

Thereafter until May 28, 1945, 66 days later, the veteran cruiser engaged in both day and night bombardment of Okinawa, provided illumination for the ground troops and engaged in call fire support duties. "L-Day" at Okinawa was Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945.

Throughout the assault and occupation of Okinawa, the SALT LAKE CITY fired 9,070 rounds of 8 inch, 14,225 rounds of 5"/25, 5,770 rounds of 40 mm and 1,711 rounds of 20 mm shells (a total of 30,857). Results were termed more than gratifying. In addition, the AA batteries assisted in downing two type Japanese planes and repulsing a number of Kamikazes. There was no loss of personnel.

May 31, 1945 found the SALT LAKE CITY at LEYTE, for repairs and relaxation.

On July 6, 1945, the ship returned to Okinawa for duty covering mine-sweeping and patrolling the East China Sea. After approximately a month in that area, she was once again on her way to the Aleutians, first making a stop at Saipan, Aug. 8, 1945.

After the SALT LAKE CITY had left Saipan for Adak word was received on August 31, 1945, to cover the occupation of Ominato Naval Base, Northern Honshu, Japan.

On September 25th, 1945, troop landings were covered at Aomori and Northern Honshy city, the ship returning to Ominate the following day.

ball-red-02 Deceased Captain John Connor, USN, relieved ball-red-02 Deceased Captain E. A. Mitchell of the command on September 27th, 1945.

In July 1946, SALT LAKE CITY was one of the combatant ships used in the Atomic Bomb Project
Last Days of the SLC

HONORS RECEIVED

NAVY CROSS........4
LETTER OF COMMENDATION. .....11
SILVER STAR.....8
DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS.....1
PURPLE HEART.......33
AIR MEDAL......1

CASUALTIES

Cape Esperance.... 5 Killed in Action, 21 Wounded.
Komandorski Islands.....2 Killed in Action, 13 Wounded
2nd Battle Philippine Sea.....1 missing in Action
Iwo Jima.....2 Killed in Action
[3]

    AUTHORIZED "STAR" OPERATIONS

  1. Pacific Raids -- 1942
    (A) Marshall-Gilbert Raids (Wotje) 1 Feb., 1942
    (B) Wake Island Raid, 24 Feb., 1943
    (C) Marcus Island Raid, 4 Mar., 1942

  2. Guadalcanal -- Tulagi Landings, 7-9 Aug., 1942
    (A) TF 18 Carrier Task Force supporting the landings

  3. Capture and defense of Guadalcanal, 10 Aug. - 13 Oct., 1942
    (A) TF 18 Carrier Force supporting Ground forces and making air strikes.
    (B) TF 64 Operations to stop the "Tokyo Express"

  4. Cape Esperance (Second Savo), 11-12 Oct. 1942
    (A) TF 64 Operations stopping the "Tokyo Express"

  5. Aleutians Operation
    (A) Komandorski Islands, 26 Mar., 1943
    (B) Attu Occupation (TF 16 covering Force) 11 May - 2 Jun., 1943

  6. Gilbert Islands Operations, 13 Nov. - 8 Dec., 1943
    (A) Bombarded Betio Islands during the assault and capture of Tarawa
    (B) Covering Force

  7. Marshall Islands operation 26 Nov., 1943 - 2 Mar., 1944
    (A) Neutralized of Force (TG 50.15). Conducted Eight (8) Distinct Bombardments of Wotje and one (1) bombardment of Taroa.

  8. Asiatic-Pacific Raids - 1944
    (A) Palau, Yap, Ulithi, Woleai (?) Raid 30 Mar., - 1 Apr., 1944 (TF 51.15)
    (Support Force to YGS 58.2 & 58.9)

  9. Philippine Liberation Ribbon (no star)
    (A) Second battle of the Philippine Sea, 23-26 Oct. , 1944
    (TF 38.1 - Carrier Task Group)

  10. Iwo Jima Operation 15 Feb. - 13 Mar., 1945

  11. Okinawa Gunto Occupation 25 Mar. - 27 May, 1945 (TF 54)

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Footnotes
[1] READ: My Speed Zero, for "the rest of the story"
[2]  Samuel Baris, S1c ball-red-02 Deceased ...U.S.S. SLC Wrestling Champion
[3] The Doolittle Raid
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships...SLC Section
U.S.S. SLC Cruise Book History
"The Bombing of Tokyo" The Story of the U.S.S. HORNET
Doolittle Raider's Reunion
[4]  See "Those that Died" Battle of Cape Esperance
[5]  See "Those that Died" Battle of Komandorski
[6]  Wounded during Battle of Komandorski

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